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If you want something done, give it to someone who is very busy

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The advice sounds remarkably unhelpful in today’s world, where Americans are working longer hours than any other country for stagnant wages. It has become commonplace to “be busy” and work harder, yet not get ahead in any real sense.

It is marvelous what you can accomplish when you focus on other people instead of yourself.

The real lesson I want to impart is not to work harder or longer. Filling your day with professional busy work or merely career promotion is not beneficial in the long run, as it focuses solely on you the individual. What is beneficial is filling your life with good, virtuous, and purpose-oriented tasks that have some “other-than-yourself” end goal. It is marvelous what you can accomplish when you focus on other people instead of yourself.

Last year, I was super excited for the 2016 election cycle (I am a political operative on the data/design side). Tons of great presidential candidates. Tons of great hope for the country. I was pumped to do my part and hold the line. Do the right thing, you know?

But as the race thinned months later, my energy slid down the proverbial Hill and my eagerness became numb. Especially for a design-focused career, creating the same messages day in and day out soon became a noisy cave I could not escape. The echoes never seem to really stop, and even though I could not see anything else, I wouldn’t really want to go outside the cave anyways (given the political climate).

As anyone can tell you, you can easily get stuck in a miasma like that and let it drag down your productivity. After all, unhappy campers make awful fires.

 

But as the race thinned months later, my energy slid down the proverbial Hill and my eagerness became numb. Especially for a design-focused career, creating the same messages day in and day out soon became a noisy cave I could not escape. The echoes never seem to really stop, and even though I could not see anything else, I wouldn’t really want to go outside the cave anyways (given the political climate).

As anyone can tell you, you can easily get stuck in a miasma like that and let it drag down your productivity. After all, unhappy campers make awful fires.

After explaining the surge in productivity I had experienced over the last week, my friend Thomas Peters recalled an old aphorism from his father: “If you want something done, give it to someone who is very busy.

Amusing because, had he given me that advice a year ago, I would have shrugged, “OK, whatever you say,” and moved on.

 

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